Wednesday, September 30, 2015

History of the Wedding Toast

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the wedding toast? Before we look at that specifically, it helps to understand the history of toasting. One tradition says it goes back to the 6th century B.C. when people toasted to a friend's health to assure them the wine wasn't poisoned as glasses clinked and wine splashed from one glass to the other. While this bit of history has been verbally handed down, there is no real evidence to support it that I know of.

Origins of Toasting
The origins of toasting can however, be traced back to most ancient societies in the form of raising their cup as a drink offering to their god(s), but there is also evidence that the ancient Greeks drank to each other's health which can be seen in The Odyssey when Ulysses drank to Achilles health.
Some used toasting as an excuse to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

The ancient Romans also practiced toasting to health and it became such an important part of their culture that at one time the Senate passed a decree that everyone was required to drink to the Emperor Augustus at every meal. We see this tradition again in literature in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when it depicts a feast where Attila the Hun practices at least three toasts for every course.

Why the Term Toast
The actual term "toast" originated back in the 16th century, with one of the first written accounts using the word found in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor when the character Falstaff says "Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't." You guessed it. They actually put a piece of toasted bread in the wine, and that is how we came to label this practice a "toast." It was thought the toasted bread would help soak up some of the acidity, and it was also a way to make a piece of stale bread edible. So over the next centuries the term toasting gradually incorporated traditional libations and the honoring of people. The person being honored often received the saturated piece of toast. 

By the 17th and 18th centuries the practice was so popular that Toastmasters came on the scene to ensure that the toasting didn't become too excessive and that everyone got their turn, because some people felt the need to toast every person in a room as an excuse to drink large amounts of alcohol! Today's toasting etiquette has changed the toasting practice to sipping rather than guzzling.

Origins of the Wedding Toast
This brings us to the origins of the wedding toast and ancient times when neighbors were at war with one another. Many times the wars ended in a truce that brought the leaders' children together in marriage. At the banquet celebration, the bride's father drank from the communal wine pitcher first (again to show it wasn't poisoned). And this is where the tradition of the wedding toast began.

Personalized Wedding Toast Champagne Flutes

Photo credits: Wikimedia, wikimedia, wikipedia

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bride 11th in Family to Wear 1895 Heirloom Dress

Today we have all kinds of ways to preserve our wedding dress for future generations, but what about those who plan to wear an heirloom wedding dress? They're not always in the best shape so what can you do? Recently, Abigail Kingston,30, planned to wear an heirloom dress that's been in her family for 120 years. It was first worn by the bride's great-great-grandmother, and since has been passed from one family member to another 10 previous times. It holds extra special sentimental value to Kingston because it was also her mother's wedding dress.

Kingston's first task was to track the dress down. Her mother told her, "The mother-of-the-last-bride has always been the keeper of the dress." They tracked it down, and the fourth bride to wear the dress (1960) shipped the gown. But when it arrived, and Kingston lifted it from the box, she worried that it might be a lost cause.

Over the 120 years since the silk/satin dress was first worn in 1895, it had been worn by brides of different sizes and was last worn in 1991. When Kingston retrieved the dress it was in less than ideal condition. According to the Pennsylvania news site Lehigh Valley Live "The sleeves were disintegrating, the dress was filled with holes and the satin had turned an unattractive brown. And when the tall, thin bride tried on the dress, it was so short it was a crop top."

Kingston turned to bridal designer Deborah LoPresti's salon, who after 200 hours of alterations, changing the color, and adding new sleeves were able to fix the dress in time for Kingston's October wedding.

The dress is beautifully restored, but because of its fragility, the bride has opted to wear a different gown for the outdoor ceremony, but she will be wearing her grandmother's locket and her great-grandmother's ring. She plans to change into the heirloom dress for cocktail hour.

The bride's mother said, "It is a magical wedding dress because she is the 11th bride to wear it, Who would think anything would last that long?"

Photo credit: Golgol Nokk

Saturday, September 26, 2015

10 Wedding Traditions and Superstitions for Good Luck

Threads of superstitions are entwined within many of the traditions surrounding weddings. Why else do we say, the groom shouldn't see the bride before the wedding, or wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue? Or that rain on your wedding day is thought to bring good luck? It turns out many wedding traditions are tied to good luck or avoiding bad luck.

Carry the Bride Over Threshold

In fact, carrying the bride over the threshold is a popular tradition that was thought to bring luck in a way to the new couple's union. But it didn't start out that way. This tradition started in ancient Rome where the bride had to show that she didn't want to leave her father's home, and so she was dragged across the threshold into the groom's home. This combined with the ancient belief that evil spirits hovered at the threshold to the new home waiting to curse the couple, started the practice of carrying the bride over the threshold so the spirits couldn't enter her body through the soles of her feet. It was a way to turn a "curse" into a "blessing" or bad luck into good. (Though it does leave one wondering whey they didn't worry about the spirits entering the groom).

9 More Wedding Traditions for Luck

  1. Other superstitions thought to bring luck included the bride placing a cube of sugar in her glove on her wedding day to sweeten the union. (I wonder if eating sugar on your wedding day could work? I mean just eat some wedding cake, right?)
  2. And if you see a spider on your wedding dress, celebrate! That's supposed to mean good luck! (Uh, yeah, good luck with that. If I see a spider it's never good. I'd rather go with the superstition that a lady bug brings good luck).
  3. According to English tradition and lore, when it comes to luck the best day of the week to get married is Wednesday and the worse day is Saturday. (Maybe that explains the high divorce rate these days! Saturday is now the most popular day to tie the knot).
  4. And on the gross side of traditions, the ancient Romans studied pig entrails to decide the luckiest time to marry.
  5. Throwing oats, grains, dried corn, (for Czech newlyweds it was peas), and eventually rice, was meant to shower the couple with good fortune, prosperity, and fertility.
  6. Egyptian brides are pinched for good luck.
  7. Middle Eastern brides paint their hands and feet with henna (a beautiful tradition) thought to protect from the evil eye.
  8. A Swedish wedding tradition includes coins in shoes. The bride slips a silver coin from her father in one shoe and a gold coin from her mother in the other. This is to ensure she will never have to do without.
  9. In Holland, a pine tree is planted outside the home of the newly married couple as a symbol of luck and fertility.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gimmal Rings

The origin of gimmal rings (also known as gimmel or puzzle rings) is not certain, but they began to appear in the 1600s with designs like clasped hands incorporated into interlocking rings. If a third ring was added to the puzzle, it often bore a heart which fit into the clasped hands, very similar to Ireland's claddagh ring. However, gimmal rings were most popular in Germany and England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Lore Behind Gimmal Rings
The lore surrounding the ring is that in ancient times, a Turkish nobleman who loved his wife very much wanted to be sure she remained true to him while he was away. He asked the local jeweler to fashion a puzzle ring that would fall apart if it was removed,. It is said he gave her the ring but wouldn't tell her the solution. For this reason, this puzzle ring is also known as a Turkish wedding band even though the Turkish people don't wear puzzle rings as a wedding ring.

Heart-shaped gemstones were often incorporated in the design and split between two rings so when the two rings were joined they formed a complete heart. Apart, the two rings allowed the bride and groom to each wear a piece of the other's heart, until they were wed. Gemstones were also fashioned in a variety of traditional gemstone cuts, but simpler ring designs were also popular and bore engravings. For instance, Martin Luther wore a gimmal ring in his engagement to Catherine Bora in 1525. It read, "Whom God has joined together, Let no man put asunder."

Gimmal rings created by two interlocking rings provided a ring for bride and one for the groom as a sign that they were betrothed. When they took their vows they fit the two rings together to form a wedding band for the new bride.

Some rings were made up of three interlocking rings. In that case, one was worn by the bride, one by the groom, and the third by a witness – what we'd call a best man today. When a witness was involved, it became more than an engagement. It represented a contract. The witness would be present when the wedding vows were exchanged and then all three rings were joined to form a wedding band for the bride to wear.

Over the last few years, the puzzle ring has re-surged in popularity in North America and is even available as four interlocking bands.

Photo credits: amazon

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Do Brides Wear a Veil?

When you stop and think about all the wedding related trappings, have you ever asked why? Many traditions associated with wedding practices and apparel go back to superstitions, and when it comes to the bridal veil it is no different.
Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress, Osborne, 1885

Bridal Veil Tradition
Bridal veil history can be traced back to Rome. This custom of veiling the bride was originally meant to disguise her from evil spirits as she walked down the aisle. Why would evil spirits even care about the bride? It was thought that they would be jealous of her happiness. So the original purpose of the bridal veil was to protect the bride who was thought to be vulnerable to enchantment.

But the original wedding veil wasn't white, it was flame red. Even the color was connected to superstition. According to the belief system of that culture, not only did the veil hid the bride from the evil spirits, but the color of the veil was thought to actually scare them off. This explains why traditionally the bride wears her wedding veil over her face.

Arranged marriage.

Lifting the Veil
Over time, of course, beliefs changed and new meanings were attached to the veil. Today some brides have the groom lift their veil; others have their father lift the veil when he gives the bride away, and still others go through the entire ceremony with their face covered until the father lifts the veil so the groom can kiss his new wife. In today's wedding tradition, brides can feel free to walk the aisle with their veil drawn back, or not to even wear a veil at all.

 Other Reason the Brides Wore a Veil
Some suggest that back in the days of arranged marriages the veil hid the face of the bride from the groom until they were married in case he didn't like how his bride looked. This way everyone would be saved the embarrassment of the groom's disappointment.
Beyond the evil spirit superstitions, veils were also considered a sign of humility and respect for God. However, during Victorian times, it became just the opposite. It became a status symbol, with the weight, length and quality of the veil a sign of the bride's status. Back then, Royal brides had the longest veils. Even in modern times I remember Princess Diana's wedding veil was 24 feet long.

Today, brides walk the aisle without worrying about evil spirits, and grooms already know what their brides look like, so for those who choose to wear them, the bridal veil tradition is more of a finishing touch to the bride's ensemble. However, many cultures never embraced wedding veils.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, wikimedia

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Giving Away the Bride Tradition and Meaning

For some brides walking down the aisle with their father on their wedding day is a very special moment. One father I know pulled a picture of his daughter from his pocket and said, "This is how I remember you." The daughter's eyes brimmed with tears as she saw herself as a toddler wearing pigtails. The wedding march played, and the two of them walked the aisle together along an emotional thread only the two of them shared. So amid traditions, sometimes we create new traditions.

Giving the Bride Away Tradition
Giving the bride away is an ancient tradition started back when arranged marriages were the norm. Daughters back then in that culture were considered their father's property, meaning the father had the right to "give his daughter" to the groom, usually for a price which had to be paid to the bride's family before he could marry their daughter. In fact, back then daughters were not allowed to get married without their father's permission.

Today, those who choose to "give the bride away" look at it as a practice that symbolizes the transfer of authority from the bride's father to her new husband, and it's not unusual for fathers to make a small speech as they relinquish their place of authority. However, these days, dads aren't the only ones to give the bride away. Now, some brides elect to have both parents, or in some cases their mother, child or some other family member walk them down the aisle. 

Today, the terminology used in wedding ceremonies may still sound about the same, but the practice of giving away the bride has evolved to become a part of the wedding ceremony that lets parents of the bride and groom take part in the wedding ceremony in a way that signifies the parents' blessing on the marriage.

With all that said, the giving away of the bride tradition is not for every bride. Those who feel the practice is archaic, or who don't have a close relationship with their father or parents, shouldn't feel obligated to include the tradition. However, for those who like the idea, but whose father is deceased or unavailable, it is not uncommon to have another close family member walk the bride down the aisle.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, flickr